Movies: Ever since Charles Gant took his weekly box office reports out of the Guardian and put them behind a paywall at the Telegraph for more money, I’ve lost touch with how well movies are performing in the cinemas. Probably just as well, because whenever I find out specifics about UK box office performance it just gets me cross. Take, for example, Rye Lane, an utterly delightful romcom that struggled in its opening weekend to make as much money as Cocaine friggin' Bear did in its fourth. It deserves to be more widely seen: it’s a perfect depiction of those times early in a relationship where you’re just hanging out together, and the world seems like an utterly surreal place (aided by the use of some of the most ridiculously wide lenses you can imagine, as if the whole universe is bending itself around the couple). Granted, it probably plays better with a London audience, and a South London one in particular. If you get the chance, go for the wholly immersive experience of watching the film in Rye Lane’s own real-life cinema the Peckhamplex, and then follow it up with the none-more-Peckham experience of dinner at a terrific spaghetti restaurant with only three tables where the owner live-streams himself cooking every night.
Music: It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, hasn’t it? Limiting myself to tunes that have been released since the beginning of the year, I could easily have assembled a playlist of twenty songs or more. Still, a format is a format, so here’s what was left when I hammered it down to ten. That just means you’ll probably get another ten next month, though. As ever, YouTube links are provided for the benefit of non-Spotifiers.
- Riot Jazz Brass Band were one of our big live discoveries last year, and it’s a pleasure to learn they’ve got lots of new music on the way, starting with this blast of a lead single.
- Robert Ellis, meanwhile, is a live discovery from this year, as part of The BBG’s 2023 project to go to gigs by people we’ve never heard of. We can talk more about how that's going later in the year.
- Typically, when an old song is recycled for a TV show or film, it’s fed through the John Lewis filter and made mushier and blander. Interestingly, when Kate Miller-Heidke and Marcus Bridge reworked Kate’s old song for TV show Last King Of The Cross, they went in the opposite direction. Australians, eh?
- After a long period of their most interesting tunes being their most melancholic, it’s nice to see Kae Tempest (with Future Utopia) on something that feels like a proper banger.
- It’s cool to see an old geezer like Peter Gabriel exploiting the benefits of streaming with his current run of singles. Each one is being released in two distinct versions: a Bright Side mix by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent (generally more detailed and subtle), and a Dark Side mix by Tchad Blake (generally more up-front and dynamic). You wouldn’t buy all these versions, but you’re happy enough listening to them and picking out the differences.
- Young Fathers continue to go from strength to strength, and it’s frustrating that all their recent London shows have clashed with other plans of mine. Really must get to see them again at some point soon.
- The Go! Team continue their run of alternating meh albums with great ones. Although I don’t understand how their previous record Get Up Sequences Part 1 was so-so, and yet their new one Get Up Sequences Part 2 is so great - shouldn't the titles suggest that they're roughly the same?
- Massive Attack’s original version of this track was always a favourite of mine, long before I realised it was also a TV show theme tune. Well, now Netflix has The Loofah Movie, a slightly overblown reworking of the show, and inevitably it comes with a slightly overblown reworking of that theme. Luckily, POST and Ghostpoet are just the people to pull it off without embarrassing themselves.
- I was pointed in the direction of Lankum by the Spotify algorithm, which seems to think that massively downbeat folk music with added slabs of atonal noise might appeal to me. Dammit, they’re right. Although it was a tough call whether I included the one about the ship that was sunk by God as punishment for the evil of its captain, or the one about the teenage girl who hanged herself for love. (I guess you’ll hear the other one next month.)
- We finish off with a collaboration between Because Of Art and Antony Szmierek. I’m totally unaware of the former, but the latter’s been appearing repeatedly on my radar with his Streets-like spoken word pieces. This particular track leans into that influence hugely, with a short story about a night out clubbing, albeit one with a happier ending than Mike Skinner would give you.
Theatre: There’s a rumour going round that I don’t like musicals. This seems to date back to an early post on the site, when Mamma Mia! was reviewed as follows: ‘firebomb the theatre, piss on the ashes, shoot the survivors through the head’. Hopefully it’s become clear since then that what I don’t like are bad musicals. Guys and Dolls, by pretty much any criterion you care to name, is a great musical: and the current production at London’s Bridge Theatre elevates it to the level of spectacular. The Bridge has developed a reputation over the last couple of years for immersive productions, sticking the audience in the same space as the play and making them follow the action around. Nicholas Hytner's production (with the aid of designer Bunny Christie) takes this idea to the extreme, putting the audience and cast in a pit in the centre of the theatre and using hydraulic platforms to create various impromptu elevated stages where the action takes place. You can choose to watch all this from seats surrounding the pit, or get into the play itself, watching out for the ushers dressed as New York cops herding audience members out of the way of the next bit of floor space that's about to rise by six feet. Even without the immersive component, this is one hell of a production, fixing some of the common casting problems this musical has - Marisha Wallace gives us a Miss Adelaide who's sassy rather than ditzy, and Andrew Richardson is a Sky Masterson with an genuinely good singing voice. (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Ewan McGregor back in 2005. And possibly Brando, too.) It's running till the beginning of September 2023: we've already seen it once in the seats, we're going again before the end of the run to take our chances with the cops.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for April 2023 is Prank Monkey Records, a record label based out of Watford. If you like, you can play the game that I did and try to guess what their records sound like from the site design alone, before pressing play on any of the supplied media to see if you're right. You probably will be.
You'll have noticed by now that this April 1st post is the first one on here since March 1st. Sorry about that: I've been busy, mainly planning things that you'll find out about on here soon enough. Hopefully, April will have a little more activity - after all, it's nearly Easter, so there's bound to be something we can talk about there. And we're only three months or so away from the 25th birthday of this website, which is almost certainly going to be the biggest news we'll have here this year. More info as it happens, I guess.